Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Call of Discipleship - reflection by Dennis McDonald

The Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community gathered this morning for liturgy lead by Dennis McDonald and Kim Panaro.  Dennis' homily starter is printed below the readings.

First Reading:  Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

Emptiness and fullness at first seem complete opposites. But in the spiritual life they are not. In the spiritual life we find the fulfillment of our deepest desires by becoming empty for God.

We must empty the cups of our lives completely to be able to receive the fullness of life from God.  Jesus lived this on the cross.  The moment of complete emptiness and complete fullness became the same.  When he had given all away to Amma, his dear Mother, he cried out, "It is fulfilled". (John 19:30).  He who was lifted up on the cross was also lifted up into the resurrection. He who had emptied and humbled himself was raised up and "given the name above all other names."  Let us keep listening to Jesus' question, "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?"

These are the inspired words of Henri Nouwen. 

Gospel:Luke 14:28-35

Large crowds followed Jesus. He turned to them and said, "If any of you come to me without turning your back on your mother and your father, your loved ones, your sisters and brothers, indeed your very self, you can't be my follower.  Anyone who doesn't take up the cross and follow me can't be my disciple."

"If one of you were going to build a tower, wouldn't you first sit down and calculate the outlay to see if you have enough money to complete the project? You'd do that for fear of laying the foundation and then not being able to complete the work - because anyone who saw it would jeer at you and say, You started a building and couldn't finish it. Or if the leaders of one country were going to declare war on another country, wouldn't they first sit down and consider whether, with an army of ten thousand, they could win against an enemy coming against them with twenty thousand?  If they couldn't they'd send a delegation while the enemy is still at a distance, asking for terms of peace."

"So count the cost. You can't be my disciple if you don't say goodbye to all of your possessions."

These are the inspired words of Luke, disciple of Jesus.

Homily: The Call of Discipleship by Dennis McDonald

“Large crowds followed Jesus”.  This isn’t the first time we hear of the crowds gathering, coming, following Jesus.  The Sermon of the Mount, the loaves and the fishes, the people overwhelming him looking to be healed are but just a few.  But in this reading, Jesus, rather than teach them, feed them, or heal them, challenges them.  If they are going to follow him they must be willing to give up everything including their families and their possessions.  He is looking for disciples, for those who are willing to risk their lives in bringing about the kin-dom of God.

 In other forms of this reading the word “hate” is used, which is very strong and disturbing. Tony Lawless shares that the Greek word, “miseo” in more closely translated as “to renounce one choice over another”, leading not to feelings of anger or disgust but more a sense of sadness in making the choice.  Remember the young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to follow him.  The response was to sell all of your possessions and follow me.  And the young man walked away sad.  Perhaps you’ve had an experience like this, when you had to choose someone over someone else.  The decision is not easy, and there is hesitation, questioning of whether it’s the right thing to do.  In the end the decision is not made with a sense of happiness but with sadness and perhaps even regret.  There is a mixture of sorrow and anticipation that comes as you  embark upon the new journey with the other person.

In this case, Jesus is on a mission, he doesn’t have time to deal with people who are just along for the ride, who are tagging along for the show.  He has a message to deliver and a way of life to live and needs to show how the world can be different for those who are treated as outcasts, those who are seen as less than.  He is striving for a change of the culture in which he lives, attempting to bring about a world of equality for all people.  A world in which those who are downtrodden come to recognize the divine spark that is within them, to realize that they have a right to a better life where they are treated with respect and dignity.   If this dream is to become a reality, Jesus needs total commitment of the disciples who will join him, will walk with him no matter the cost.  They cannot be looking back, having divided allegiances.  It is all or nothing if you decide to follow the path that Jesus has laid out. 

That same path is laid out before us today.  We are called to be disciples of Jesus and to turn our life over to the cause of equality and justice.  The reality is that we are still trying to bring about the Kin-dom of God.  We live in a world that is still filled with injustice, with the haves and the have not’s.  As we read the news or listen to the 24 hour news cycle we hear of war, we hear of hateful language and threats being thrown at people seen as different, as less than.  We see the living hell that immigrants are caught in, chased from their own country, rejected by other countries, left to wonder where and when they might have a place to call home again.  The list could go on and on, and we could each name an injustice that causes us anguish and anger. 

And so, Jesus turns to us and asks:  Are we up to the call of discipleship? Are we willing to drink from the cup that he offers?  Are we ready and able to speak truth to power?  Are we ready to face the consequences of our actions? Are we willing to give up everything to follow him and his mission?

Are we confident that like Jesus, we will be fulfilled in a life of discipleship? Jesus turned all over to Amma, and in so doing was blessed with new life in the midst of death.  His challenge was answered by disciples who continued his clarion call for justice and equality.  Let us hear that call and reflect on how we can best respond as today’s disciples of Jesus to heal our world and bring justice and equality to all.  

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